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Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Is Golf Really Exercise?

How golf may help your heart.

Golfer at sunset.For many people, the idea of exercise sounds like a chore that they’d rather put off for another day. That’s why I encourage many of my patients to forget about the gym, with its repetitive machines, loud music, and sometimes confusing etiquette, and find something that they really enjoy. For many people, golf fits the bill perfectly.

While you might think of golf as a game pastime that involves tooling around in little carts, interrupted by brief interludes of searching for and whacking a little white ball, all in the hopes of eventually dropping said ball into an equally small hole in the ground, there is actually much more to the game than meets the eye.

Since golf carts are only allowed to be driven in certain areas of the golf course, there is in fact a reasonable amount of walking involved, even for someone who chooses to ride in a cart. In 2008, Dr. Neil Wolkodoff measured the number of calories burned by a small test group of golfers who played nine holes of golf while strapped to special equipment designed to measure their metabolic rate.

The outcome? When they rode in a cart, the golfers used up a respectable 411 calories (or 822 calories for an 18-hole round). The same group burned off 721 calories when they walked the 9 holes. At that rate, a full round would leave them 1,442 calories lighter.

Clearly, the walkers came out ahead, and not just in terms of calories. For heart health, 20 to 30 minutes of continuous aerobic exercise is needed to keep the heart in top condition, but by stopping and starting in a golf cart, it’s very hard, if not impossible, to meet this goal. And while both groups burned a good amount of calories, it’s easy to see how a pit stop for a burger and fries at the 19th hole tavern could easily undo all of that good work.

Golf promotes balance and mental focus, and is a great way to spend time with friends and enjoy the outdoors. While the game may not appeal to all of us, it’s the perfect example of an activity that can feed body, mind, and spirit.

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Tags: Exercise

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About the Author


Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.